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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: Writing…or doing something else…

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel  like I should be doing something else.”

Gloria Steinem

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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A DRAFT of my first novel, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, is in print! If you have an interest in reading to review, please email me. I’ll send you a hard copy or PDF.

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Change your thoughts to change your outcomes

If you live in Phoenix, you’ve likely noticed a giant increase in panhandlers at intersections in every part of the Valley. As I understand it, we have looser restrictions on “begging” than many other major municipalities. That – perhaps coupled with our temperate homelessweather – means that we’re seeing a lot more presumably needy people asking for handouts.

Whatever your feelings about these folks, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t envy them. I don’t care whether they’re homeless. I don’t care whether it’s a “scam.” Seriously – who would choose that as their life’s work, unless it was some sort of temporary sociological experiment?

One guy, in particular, got me to thinking the other day. I work from home, so I don’t typically drive the same path on a daily basis. Last week, though, I did have occasion to drive the exact same route at roughly the same time, two days in a row. As I arrived at a busy intersection, I noticed a man sitting on a battered cooler in front of a convenience store. He was bearded, wearing a blue ball cap, and, as you might expect, fairly scruffy looking. The next day, there he was again. Same man, same battered cooler, same blue ball cap, in exactly the same place.

That got me to wondering about him. Where did he sleep at night? When was the last time he’d had a shower? A hot meal? There was a report on the radio at that moment about MLB pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. When was the last time this guy had sat on a couch and watched a baseball game? Where was he from? Where was his family? What had he last done for work? What kind of education did he have? All this went through my head in the minute or so I sat at the stoplight noticing him.

As I continued driving, I pondered further, wondering what might have happened in his life to lead him to that place. Had he lost a job? Had he broken up with a girlfriend and wound up homeless? The interesting thing to me was that he had managed to make something normal of his circumstances. That cooler might have been his only possession, but it was his, and as such, it gave him a place to sit while begging from his corner at the same time, two days in a row. I’ve no idea if he’s out there again today. And if he’s not, I’ve no idea where he’s gone. But for the times I saw him, he’d adopted that corner as part of his routine.

So that led me to thinking about how any of us adopt routines – both healthy and unhealthy. One might take the stand that adopting the routine of panhandling on a street corner is unhealthy. On the other hand, the routine of staying alive by any means necessary is probably a pretty good idea. There are always two ways to look at a situation, aren’t there?

A big part of what leads to a routine is our mindset – deciding to do something on a regular basis. But it’s often developed rather unconsciously, isn’t it? We stumble into something, do it once, and then one day we look up to notice that we’ve created a routine for ourselves, whether or not we intended to. Sometimes, like I imagine it might have been for my panhandling friend, it may amount to settling for things. Maybe he did lose his job – and unable to find more work right away, accepted unemployment as his new normal. Maybe then his girlfriend threw him out, and without any real friends in the Valley, he wound up sleeping in his car. So that became another new normal. But he still had to eat – so he decided to make a sign and pitch his cooler in front of a Circle K on a busy corner near a freeway entrance. My point is that he probably didn’t plan to become a panhandler. I’ll bet if you went and asked him, he’d tell you the other, bigger dreams he had. This just happened. In no small part, because he agreed to each step of his new routine, accepting them as the way things are.

While the panhandler is an extreme example, this is the way most of our lives unfold. Things happen, and we accept them. Unless and until we decide to take action and move in a different direction, they will keep happening along whatever trajectory we’re currently following. Are there places in your life where you’ve just accepted that “that’s the way it is”? Inability to find time to write as often as you’d like? Not enough money to market your book properly? You don’t have to be living in your car or begging on a street corner to have found yourself settling.

Here’s the thing: you can change your outcomes. You simply have to decide to make a shift. The what iffirst step is knowing what you want. The second step is believing something else is possible. Even if it seems absolutely impossible at this moment, allow yourself to think – and more importantly, feel – “But what if it were possible? What if I could find more time to write? What if there were a way to market my book on my tiny budget?” What if…? can be a powerful trigger, if you let it.

We all get stuck sometimes, yours truly included. We stagnate, find ourselves settling for less than what we want, deserve, and are capable of achieving. The great news is that we have the ability to choose to become unstuck. Whether that means reading this blog, finding one supportive person to help you, or rearranging your schedule so that you live on your own terms, the answers and support and solutions are out there. You just need to ask, and they will appear.

Here’s to changing your thoughts AND your outcomes!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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We’re six weeks into 2015 — are  you READY? If you haven’t yet 2015 Goalsmapped out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

 

 

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Inspirational Quotes for Writers from Presidents of the U.S.A.*

US-Presidents

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. — George Washington

A pen is certainly an excellent instrument to fix a man’s attention and to inflame his ambition. — John Adams

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. — Thomas Jefferson

Philosophy is common sense with big words. — James Madison

A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue. — James Monroe

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. — John Quincy Adams

It is a damn poor mind indeed which can’t think of at least two ways to spell any word. — Andrew Jackson

Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs, but always by exciting the multitude. The first is the resource of intrigue and produces only secondary results, the second is the resort of genius and transforms the universe. — Martin Van Buren

To Englishmen, life is a topic, not an activity. — William Henry Harrison

I can never consent to being dictated to. — John Tyler

I cannot, whilst President of the United States, descend to enter into a newspaper controversy. — James K. Polk

I shall pursue a straightforward course, deviating neither to the right or left, so that come what may, I hope my real friends will never have to blush for me, so far as truth, honesty, and fair dealings are concerned. — Zachary Taylor

It is not strange … to mistake change for progress. — Millard Fillmore

Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion. — Franklin Pierce

The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there. — James Buchanan

Whatever you are, be a good one. — Abraham Lincoln

I have reached the summit of my ambition. — Andrew Johnson

Everyone has his superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished. — Ulysses S. Grant

Since I came here, I have learned that Chester A. Arthur is one man and the President of the United States is another. — Chester A. Arthur

A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out. — Grover Cleveland

Great lives never go out; they go on. — Benjamin Harrison

In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest. — William McKinley

The only man who makes no mistake is the man who does nothing. — Theodore Roosevelt

Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood. — William Howard Taft

We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. — Woodrow Wilson

Ambition is a commendable attribute without which no man succeeds. Only inconsiderate ambition imperils. — Warren G. Harding

All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work. — Calvin Coolidge

Words without actions are the assassins of idealism. — Herbert Hoover

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

We need not fear the expression of ideas — we do need to fear their suppression. — Harry Truman

I never saw a pessimistic general win a battle. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. — John F. Kennedy

The noblest search is the search for excellence. — Lyndon Johnson

A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself. — Richard Nixon

Things are more like today than they have ever been before. — Gerald Ford

If you fear making anyone mad, then you ultimately probe for the lowest common denominator of human achievement. — Jimmy Carter

Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer. — Ronald Reagan

Don’t try to fine-tune somebody else’s view. — George H.W. Bush

If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit. — Bill Clinton

We are not limited by what we have done, or what we have left undone. We are limited only by what we are willing to do. — George W. Bush

We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent. — Barack Obama

*These quotes are attributed to the people listed. However, the Internet is not infallible, as you well know. So if you know/think/suspect that a quote listed here was originally spoken by another, you can either make a polite comment below or just know we made our best effort and keep reading. 🙂

Happy Presidents Day  now go write something!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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We’re six weeks into 2015 — are  you READY? If you haven’t yet 2015 Goalsmapped out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

 

 

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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: Drunk on writing…

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

Bradbury

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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2015 is RIGHT around the corner — are  you READY? If you haven’t begun 2015 Goalsmapping out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

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You seriously have NO excuse for not finishing your book (and neither do I)

This post may be construed as controversial. It may be construed as political. It may unnerve you, piss you off, or motivate you. Any of those responses is fine with me. The thing is, nothing gets done unless we decide to do it. Our books don’t get written, published, marketed, or distributed unless we decide to write them, publish them (or find publishers for them), market them, and distribute them (or find distributors for them). If you haven’t finished your book yet, I’m here to make a recommendation that I, myself, need to follow: GET OVER YOURSELF AND GET IT DONE!

Mohammedou_Ould_Salahi

Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba since August 4, 2002. By all accounts, he is innocent of any crimes yet he continues to wait with 121 other detainees for trials … release … death. But that’s not the remarkable part. Slahi, who now speaks four languages (Arabic, German, French, and English), learned enough English during his detainment to write a book in English about his torture experience at Gitmo. He finished the book in 2005, but because of the many murky channels of government bureaucracy that had to be negotiated, it was not published until January 20th of this year.

Publication of Guantanamo Diary was due in no small part to the tireless research and persistence of Larry Siems, a writer and human rights advocate who for many years directed the Freedom to Write Program at PEN American Center. In an NPR report from the UK’s The Guardian, Siems detailed the trail and many-layered steps that went into the publishing process of this amazing and all-too-necessary book. Here is a link to an abbreviated piece Siems published January 16 on TheGuardian.com. Siems is credited as the editor and author of the book’s introduction.

The story is harrowing, to say the least. Yet Slahi proves to be the biggest humanitarian of all, in that he says he would one day like to sit and have tea with his captors. Who among us could ever be so gracious? Read an excerpt from the book here.

Now, back to you and me. I’m guessing no one reading this right now is in government lockup. I know I’m not. I’ve got a busy life – especially right now due to a family health crisis. But who among us doesn’t have a busy life? Is that really what we’re telling ourselves and accepting as our excuse for not finishing our books? For not learning the next skill we need to market our books? For not “finding” the money to hire an expert to help us – or do it for us?

Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Larry Siems have proven, undeniably, that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’m not here to shame you. I’m in the same boat, remember? I just want to encourage you to set aside your excuses and get your book written, published, and into your readers’ hands. Don’t they deserve to have your knowledge or story to teach them, entertain them, or inspire them?

If you still need a little push, I highly recommend you buy, borrow, or check out from the library Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. As I’ve mentioned before on this very blog, strap on your seatbelt, though, because this book is going to grab you by the throat and hold on until you’ve screamed “Uncle!”

Let’s make a pact, why don’t we? You take the next step in your publishing process TODAY and come back here and tell us about it in the COMMENTS section of this post. And I’ll do the same. Let’s compare notes and see where we end up. At least one step close to our goals, I’m guessing…

Here’s to banishing the excuses once and for all!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

We’re one month into 2015 — are  you READY? If you haven’t yet 2015 Goalsmapped out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

 

 

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Exercises in Observation

My family used to tease me that nothing ever escaped me. If someone got new tires, I noticed. Rearranged a small piece of furniture, I saw it. I spotted every new ‘do or piece of clothing. When I was in college, I worked at the local newspaper. One of my friends was an assistant sports editor who routinely shaved his beard the first day of baseball season, when pitchers and catchers Open  your eyesreported for Spring Training, and then stopped shaving the day after the World Series. Before I became familiar with his schedule, I remember seeing him about 4 in the afternoon the day after he’d shaved and noticing his beard was gone. He told me I was the only one who’d noticed. “Several people asked me if I’ve lost weight, though,” he quipped cheerily. “And someone else told me they liked this shirt I’ve worn about a thousand times.” How could you not notice a full beard missing from the face of a man you saw nearly every day?

Observation is an essential skill for a writer. It’s also a really useful one for a book marketer. How can observation enhance your writing? Well, what are you paying attention to? Ideas, details, suggestions, comments that could become lines of dialogue, problems people are trying to solve – all of them surround us daily. If we pay attention, we can incorporate them into our work – both fiction and nonfiction.

EXAMPLES

1. The front page of the January 16, 2015 Arizona Republic had an article titled “8 amazing things from the records at Yuma prison.” The story contains interesting details about prison life in the Old West. “In the days before statehood, Yuma Territorial Prison was the official slammer, and guards there kept copious records. So we read them – tattoos, missing teeth and all.” I thought immediately of an author I know who writes Arizona-based Westerns. Maybe these details aren’t for her – but they would likely be important to some author of Westerns looking to authenticate the setting of a novel in the works.

2. A few days ago, I heard a story on NPR about Walter Brinker, a Vietnam vet who now offers free roadside assistance to stranded motorists up and down the North Carolina highway system. The report explained how, with more than 2,000 free roadside assists behind him, Walter has amassed decades of experience in quick solutions to help people get back on the road without having to call AAA. He’s even put his knowledge into a book of his own, Roadside Survival: Low-tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns. That story just conjured images for me that could make for a transformative scene in a contemporary work of fiction. It might also find its way into the next version of my own nonfiction book, Practical Philanthropy: How ‘Giving Back’ Helps You, Your Business, and the World Around You.

3. The main character of my novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, is on a journey of self-discovery via world travel. It was an audacious undertaking to write a book about many places I’ve never been – thank god for the Internet generally, travel blogs and YouTube specifically. One of the 28 countries Stan visits is the Philippines, where he is struck by the abject poverty in which many Filipinos live. In writing this section of the book, I recalled a Facebook post I’d seen about an amazing project called A Liter of Light. You’d better bet the details of this amazing project to bring light into millions of homes without the use of electricity made it into my novel. This also may be another useful example for Practical Philanthropy.

liter of light

4. Several years ago my sister, my husband, a friend, and I embarked on a screenplay that has been put to the side for now. One of our characters, however, was modeled after a man I met at a gas station. With his carrot-orange hair, a full beard, and missing quite a few teeth, he approached me to ask if I would like an unopened bag of red licorice. “Can’t eat ‘em,” he said, motioning to the absent pearly whites. A woman had offered the candy to him, and he was now offering it to me. In the process of our conversation, I learned that he’d lost his wife about a year earlier, subsequently fell down on his luck, and was now homeless – temporarily, he assured me.

All of these observations were incorporated into my writing projects. But the need for observation is not limited to the writing aspect of the publishing process. The same is true of book marketing opportunities. If you remain vigilant, they show up everywhere.

MORE EXAMPLES

5. The Summer Author Event (Aug. 2014) and Holiday Author Event (Dec. 2014) came out of my noticing some grumbling in the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup about the lack of opportunities for authors to connect with readers. Evidently, Elaine Mays had the same awareness before she began the League of Local Authors, a group that is constantly on the lookout for book signing opportunities. Currently, members participate in several Phoenix-area farmers’ markets a few times a month, and the appearances will certainly expand soon.

6. Robert Scanlan, author of Tigers Under My Bed: Life Lessons Tamed During Three Organ Transplants, put his book in front of several renowned transplant surgeons shortly after its release in May 2014. Now, it is being considered as an ancillary textbook in both the USC and UCLA medical schools.

7. Diana DeLugan wrote a book of ghost tales from the American Southwest. In her efforts to do some research for a second book, The Otero Arizona Land Grant Documentary, she went down to Tubac, Arizona. There, she connected with the proprietor of a hotel and parlayed that connection into a book signing event over Halloween weekend. Great timing for a book of ghost stories, isn’t it?

Good books are the easiest ones to market. Details make for good books. And observation – of people, situations, voids that need filling – is one of the most significant keys to successful marketing.

Open your eyes. Listen up. Get nosy about people. If you’re not great at meeting Mr nosypeople, practice! Try Toastmasters, where you’ll hear (and occasionally have to give) speeches on myriad topics. Read everything. If you typically read only computer magazines, expand your horizons and pick up a copy of Atlantic Monthly. If your politics fall firmly on one side of the aisle, occasionally do some opposition research: read op-eds from writers with opposing views; listen to talk radio shows of people whose opinions you “hate.”

Then, have a way to capture the details as they come in. Use the digital recorder on your smartphone. Carry a notebook with you. Text yourself. Once you begin to discover the wide, wide world around you, you’ll wonder how the small things ever escaped your notice before.

Here’s to seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears, and writing with new zest!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

We’re one month into 2015 — are  you READY? If you haven’t yet 2015 Goalsmapped out your book marketing efforts for the New Year, it’s time to get started! Sit down with Laura – in person or via Skype – and review your book marketing plan. We’ll evaluate: what’s working, what isn’t working, and which new strategies you may want to implement for the new year (or your newest book). Regularly $150 for a 45-minute session. Marcie Brock special: $99 for the first five who respond. mktg@WriteMarketDesign.com

 

 

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Skill matters — but heart matters more when it comes to your book’s message

A few days ago, I was asked about my life philosophy at a business event. This didn’t happen as we were just passing cards during a 30-second intro — it was part of an exercise on the topic of building consensus by learning to understand where others are coming from.

Participants were given a list of about 80 values (e.g., cooperation, creativity, excellence, involvement, loyalty, freedom, public messageservice, stability, sophistication, and wisdom) and asked to choose the 10 they felt best represented themselves. We were then asked to narrow that list down to our Top 5 and rank them in order of importance. The exercise consisted of pairing off with others, showing them our Top 5 list, and having the other person ask us to explain what one of those terms meant to us, personally. My top 5 included personal development, freedom, influencing others, affection, and helping society. The gal who chose to ask me about my value of helping society also asked about my life philosophy.

My answer to her was, essentially, that I really, truly, and from the bottom of my heart want to change the world and make it a better place for all of us. But I cannot do that on my own. In my opinion, no single book or single messenger could undertake such a massive goal. But I can — and do — effect change by helping other people write the best books they can and then get those books into the hands of readers. I don’t write all the books or share all the messages myself; I help many messengers raise their voices and exert their influence in their particular fields.

I wouldn’t have given this much more thought, except that a related question arose in one of my LinkedIn groups today. The headline read: Are you an elitist? Or do you believe everyone should write? 

Wow! I’d actually like to meet the person who said that everyone should not write. Now, I’m something of a perfectionist, so I get the absolute frustration with the plethora of crap books out there. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: The good news is that writing a book is easier than it’s ever been; the bad news, also, is that writing a book is easier than it’s ever been. Not everyone is a born writer. Not everyone has any skill whatsoever at putting sentences on a page in a way that makes sense, allows proper white space, incorporates correct grammar, or spells even passably. But the lack of those technical skills does not automatically diminish the message.

I was inherently blessed with a decent command of grammar and language and communication. I’ve often come across other writers who find writing difficult. I saw the banner of a colleague’s Facebook page today with the Ernest Hemingway quote: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter — and bleed.” I’ve never referenced that quote because it’s not a feeling with which I am familiar or one I want to perpetuate.

Writing, editing, layout, design, and marketing are easy for me. I know that is not the case for all — or most — writers and would-be authors. But because it’s easy for me, I can help others who struggle with those parts! The thing I absolutely cannot do is give you a message or a passion or an urge to make a difference with your words. Feel you can’t write your way out of a paper bag — but you have an idea that could save, transform, or uplift the lives of many? What if you’d met that person who felt that since you’re not a natural writer, you should pack it in and give up the thought of writing a book or speaking in public or sharing your message with the world?

Maybe … perhaps … possibly you have met that person, and he or she so discouraged you that you’ve still got a tiny little voice inside you telling you that you have something important to say, but it’s buried under all the crap you’ve allowed others to heap on you. Maybe it was a parent or a shitty school teacher who had no business in a classroom. Maybe it was an unsupportive sibling or spouse who told you your writing would never come to anything. Maybe it was an envious colleague who wanted to see you fail so they could feel better about themselves. Doesn’t matter who it was — or what they said. What matters is that you ignore their messaging, dismantle the self-sabotage you’ve allowed to take hold, and begin to listen more intently to your own voice — the one with the important message.feet

I can’t change the world by myself. I don’t know enough about the environment, immigration, prison reform, healthcare, education, relationships, spirituality, or any of the other myriad places I know we need to foster change. I know what I’d like to see happen, and I know there are many out there who are already making a big difference. But there are many, also, who are not yet making any difference at all because they’re fearful that they don’t know enough, aren’t polished enough, don’t have enough skill as writers. I’m here to help you stomp out such nonsense, once and for all.

Please don’t get bogged down in the technical details. Making a book is EASY — I promise. Writing it may take a bit of effort, but even that doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may have talked yourself into believing it is. The one part only you can do is have a message, a mission, and the will to share it with the world.

Are you ready to take a step forward? To begin to help me change the world? You can do it — I know you can.

Here’s to proving all the naysayers wrong!

Laura

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Summer Author Event

PHOENIX-AREA AUTHORS: If you or someone you know is an author in Phoenix, please consider participating in the Summer Author Event on August 16. This multi-author book signing and meet-and-greet will put you in front of hundreds of readers in a casual environment where you can sell and sign books. There are three levels of participation. The first 100 attendees will receive goody bags – and for just $25, you can put a promo for your book into the goody bags!  Learn more or register at SummerAuthorEvent.com.

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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7 things authors can learn from watching the Oscars

Perhaps you were one of the tens of millions who tuned in to watch Hollywood’s biggest night — the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Oscar parties aren’t just for the Hollywood elite; some average folks do it up big, with red carpet events, replete with voting and awards for most correct guesses. Whether you attended a private Oscar gala or watched from the comfort of your couch in an old pair of sweats, Savvy Book Marketers can take a few lessons from watching the Academy Awards.

  1. There’s no accounting for taste. My father used to repeat this phrase again and again, usually with the not-so-thinly veiled intention of letting me know he didn’t like what I was wearing, reading, writing, watching, etc. Well, I saw five of the nine films nominated for Best Picture and liked two of them, but even those didn’t seem strong enough to receive Best Picture nods. So it’s true. There is no accounting for why one person loves a movie  or a book  and another hates it. That’s great news for authors, because it means there’s probably an audience for your book somewhere. If you’re writing a business book, it might help to know what the audience wants first. If you’re writing fiction, you may have to go out and find your audience. Either way, your audience is out there waiting for you to connect with them.
  2. The best nominee doesn’t always win. A friend of mine feels Viola Davis was robbed last night. That’s not mine to say. Sometimes, the Academy coalesces around an actor you don’t think deserves to win. The same can be true of books. Ever wonder why a certain middling writer becomes popular? (A) They’re in the right place at the right time. (B) It’s who they know. (C) A little luck goes a long way. (D) All of the above. Create your own luck by leveraging all or your resources to position yourself to your own best advantage.
  3. You’re never too old. With nearly 200 acting credits to his name  some of them truly outstanding performances  one would have thought Christopher Plummer might have won an Oscar before now. Not only did it take till this year for him to earn the honor of oldest Oscar winner ever at age 82, but he was not even nominated until 2009. If you’ve been telling yourself you can’t write this book because you’re too old, throw that excuse out the window. Age is just a number, and it has no impact on your ability to write, publish, market, and sell a great book.
  4. Don’t do it for the glory. With 17 Oscar nominations, Meryl Streep was lauded last night as the actor with the most nominations of all time. Yet it was 30 years between last night’s win for her role in The Iron Lady and her prior win for Sophie’s Choice. But who would argue that she has made anything but amazing films in those last 30 years? While it may be true that it’s just an honor to be nominated, had she been motivated by the glory alone, she might have given up a long time ago. If you write with passion, your audience will feel that passion and connect with you much better than if you write for the paycheck or the glory.
  5. Make it long enough, but no longer. Did you notice that the awards program ended at 9:38 last night? Yes, they’ve shortened things up a bit by having one presenter hand out multiple awards, but this show felt uncharacteristically short. Additionally, I saw only one winner go over time with their acceptance speech. One of the first questions new authors often ask me is “How long should my book be?” Like the Academy Awards, it should be long enough, but no longer. Of course, if it’s 50 pages, it’s more like a booklet than a book, but there’s a new trend toward short works, so that may be a good thing. Write long enough to thoroughly cover your topic  then stop.
  6. Hire an entertaining host for your event. What would the Oscars be without the host? A circus with no ringmaster, essentially. But as we saw last year, the experience and skill of the host makes a big difference. Fame and beauty aren’t enough to carry the job. Having a host for your book launch event enables you to be fully present without worrying over all the details. You’re there to read, talk, answer questions, and sign books. You don’t have to greet the guests, serve the food, coordinate the seating, or bother about any of those details. Whether it’s one helper or a team, get others involved in your book launch.
  7. Rehearse your speech ahead of time. After watching about a half-dozen people fumble through their acceptance speeches, my husband turned to me and asked, “If you knew you were nominated, wouldn’t you prepare a few words, just in case you won?” Yes. Yes I would. And authors, you never know who you’re going to  meet, so make sure you’ve rehearsed a brief description of your book well enough that when the time comes, you can say it without fumbling or going on and on till the other person walks away out of boredom. Rehearse your book pitch till it rolls off your tongue fluidly!

Happy movie watching!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Finding the silver lining in used book sales

The idea of reselling used books is understandably troublesome for some authors. You work hard on your book and take it to market with the goal of getting it into as many hands as possible, but you want individuals to purchase new copies – legally. You copyright your book to protect it from theft. And then, in spite of all your best efforts, you see used copies on Amazon, in thrift shops, on the shelves at used bookstores. Even books in libraries offer multiple readings of one book, rather than each reader making a separate purchase.

One way to view these resold books is with gratitude that more people are reading your book and hearing your message. The reselling of books gives them new life. I’d sure rather my book went to a new person than languishing in the back corner of the original buyer’s bookshelf or, worse, winding up in a landfill somewhere. I always think back to Seth Godin’s admonition that an author must give away 5,000 books before their book will ever really take off.

Another way to view the sharing of books is by making a comparison to radio. Have you ever listened to a song on the radio and then gone out and bought the album, cassette, CD, or MP3? Of course you have – that’s why artists put their music on terrestrial and Internet radio. It’s not out of the generosity of their hearts – it’s for the exposure.

In my experience, buying secondhand books is not much different. For one thing, I often am introduced to books through used sources that I would never otherwise have known about or thought to buy. Secondly, with the introduction to these unfamiliar authors, on more than one occasion, I have sought out – and purchased – new copies of these authors’ other works.

Whether you view reselling as a blessing or a curse is totally up to you.

For those who appreciate a good used book sale, one of the biggest in the country is coming up this weekend in Phoenix. The VNSA Charity Book Sale will hold its 56th event at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. Bibliophiles from all over the country visit this sale – and it even has international patrons!

All books are donated by the public, and the sale is run entirely by an incredibly well-organized staff of volunteers. I just learned that VNSA does not carry books over from one year’s sale to the next, with the exception of specific rare books. Leftover books are sold or donated to nonprofit groups who make arrangements with VNSA months in advance of the sale.

This marks the 25th year with the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County as the sale’s beneficiaries. Since its inception in 1957, VNSA has donated more than $6 million to nonprofit human service agencies in the Phoenix area. Kudos to them!

Hours of the 2012 sale are: Saturday, Feb 11, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday, Feb 12, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Shipping is available both days, and admission is free, although the fairground charges a fee for parking.

Categories for this year’s sale include:

  • DVDs/Videos
  • Biography
  • Business/Career Planning
  • Children’s
  • Classics
  • Computers
  • Cookbooks
  • Dictionaries
  • Fiction
  • Fine Arts
  • Foreign Language
  • Health & Fitness
  • History/War/Politics
  • House & Garden/Crafts & Hobbies
  • Humor
  • Large Print/Books on Tape
  • Paperbacks
  • Rare and Unusual
  • Relationships/Self Help/Ethnic Studies
  • Religion & Philosophy
  • Science and Nature
  • Sets
  • Sports/Transportation
  • Suspense/Science Fiction
  • Text
  • Travel
  • Treasures
  • The West

Maybe I’ll see you at the sale!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Top 10 lessons authors can take from watching the Super Bowl

This post originally ran on my other blog on Friday, February 4, 2011.

Yup, it’s that time of year again — the pinnacle of American sports fandom. I heard the other day that we will spend $1.84 MILLION on potato chips for this year’s Super Bowl parties. Interestingly, many literary types tend not to be sports types. Nevertheless, there are a number of things Savvy Book Marketers can learn from watching the top two NFL teams in action. Here are my Top 10:

  1. It takes guts and conditioning to make it to the top. No elite athlete makes it to the top of their game by accident. They train, practice, and commit themselves to success. How committed are YOU to seeing your book succeed?
  2. The best team doesn’t always win. Sometimes, a lesser team has a good game, and the team you think should win doesn’t win. This is true of books, too. Ever wonder why a bad writer becomes popular? (A) They’re in the right place at the right time. (B) It’s who they know. (C) A little luck goes a long way. (D) All of the above. Leverage everything you can to position yourself to your own best advantage.
  3. Good coaching matters. Almost without exception, winning teams have good coaches. As an author, you can do the same. Surround yourself with a writing coach, editor, designer, and others who will help you elevate your work to become as good as it can be.
  4. Getting on the field and making it to the endzone … two entirely different things. An author understandably heaves a giant sigh of relief on finishing their manuscript, especially if they’ve been working on it for years. However, finishing the writing is just the FIRST step in publishing your book. You will only make it to the end zone of strong sales with a well-crafted plan for editing, design, and — most importantly — marketing!
  5. Sometimes you have to take a risk. On the field, a risk could be a Hail Mary pass or running instead of punting on the one-yard line. As an author, it could mean taking a controversial stand, approaching someone famous for a blurb, or making a substantial investment in a marketing campaign. Be strategic, but remember that sometimes the biggest risk is rewarded with the biggest payoff.
  6. When you fall down, get up quickly. Things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes you hire an unskilled editor, your designer quits before they’ve finished your cover, your blog languishes, or the book itself flops in spite of your best efforts. You have two choices. Are you going to stew, look for someone to blame, and fall into a depression, or are you going to get up and write your next book ASAP?
  7. Rabid fans help enormously. Whether you’re a G-Man or proficient at Gronking, you’re ready to root on your favorite team. A successful author can appreciate the fact that the fans’ energy has an immensely positive effect on the players. If your book is almost done but you don’t have a screaming fan base yet, it’s time to start building it!
  8. Get creative with your advertising. So many people watch the Big Game for the ads that betting parlors have begun taking odds so we can call our favorites. As an author, pay special attention to the Super Bowl ads this year. What about them is captivating? What makes them work? And where might you mimic their success, if even in a small way?
  9. Throw a big party! When you’re ready to launch your book, don’t let it slip quietly into the world — THROW A BIG PARTY and invite everyone you know! Create professionally printed invitations. Send media releases. Print flyers and postcards. Enlist your social media friends and fans to help you get the word out. Hold the event at a venue that will provide (or allow you to cater) food and spread out to sign lots of books.
  10. The whole world is watching you. OK, maybe not the whole world. But significant parts of your world. With a book launch, you’re going public. So be ready to meet the public by speaking fluidly and intelligently about your book, having a good team out there promoting it for you, and being as prepared as possible to make as big a splash as you can.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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WRITING: Perhaps the most accessible art. So what’s your excuse?

When I was single, I always wanted to date a musician. I suppose I romanticized the idea – ever dreaming of having a man write a song for me and serenade me on my birthday. Some dreams come true. My husband is a guitarist who was in a moderately successful band called Dryspell in the early 90s. Evidently, active musicians aren’t the most reliable romantic partners. John tells me I should be glad I didn’t know him when he was in Dryspell, as his whole focus was the band. Girlfriends got part-time attention, if that. He still plays once in a while, although my serenade appears to be lost somewhere on his to-do list.

I, on the other hand, know next to nothing about music. I don’t read music or play any instruments, but I know what I like and I’m able, in general terms, to explain why. John and I have different tastes, too. UK artists like Sting and U2 are my favorites, while he loves the craggy voice of the Boss. One thing we both enjoy is watching the singing competition shows: American Idol, X Factor, and The Sing-Off. So far, we’ve pretty much coalesced around the same contestants, so perhaps our tastes are more similar than different.

One night, I was singing with the radio, and John had the strangest look on his face. “What?” I asked. “Are you saying I don’t sing well?”

As diplomatically as possible, he asked me, “Do you think you’re a good singer?” We still laugh about that.

So the other night, as we were watching Idol, I had to ask, “Do these people really think they can sing? Seriously – what would you tell me if I told you I wanted to audition for American Idol?”

“I might suggest you practice a little?” he asked with a shrug.

The thing I took away from this exchange is that all of the arts are not equal. I’ve often mused about the art of writing, in that it’s the art that seems most accessible to the widest number of people. Take singing, dancing, playing the piano, painting, sculpting … or even the art of throwing a 99-mile-an-hour fastball. None of those is, for most non-artists, a day-to-day activity.

Writing, on the other hand, is something most of us do, to even a marginal degree, almost every day. We text. We send emails. We write grocery lists and notes to our kids. Writing  in some capacity is, for most people, a function of daily life.

This is not to demean writing as an art. Few would argue that Poe’s poetry, Flagg’s fiction, or Simon’s stage plays qualify as anything other than art. Those possessing the gift of word magic obviously stand apart from the rest of us who blog and Tweet every day. On the whole, however, writing is an accessible art, in that almost anyone – provided they have a clear message to share or a story to tell – can create a book, because good editing can work miracles. No, it can’t make diamonds out of dirt, but in general, it’s the concept that becomes the book. For those poor, off-key souls auditioning in front of the whole world, on the other hand, no amount of editing, voice coaching – even a decade of rehearsing – is likely to make them good enough to land a record deal.

On a weekly basis, I meet people who say, “I’ve been thinking about writing a book someday.” Most never do, but it’s not because they can’t. They may believe they can’t – but that’s just an excuse.

If you’ve been thinking about writing a book for a while now but have been buying into your excuses, I issue you a challenge: Hit YouTube and look up a couple of the weaker American Idol auditions. Then wish those folks hearty congratulations – because even though nothing will make them better singers, at least they had the courage to try.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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Want to be attractive to the media? Include a MEDIA ROOM on your website!

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Now that we’ve discussed how to write a news release and what goes into a media kit, it’s time to build a room to house them. A media room is not an actual room, but the virtual space (usually on your website) where you aggregate all of the things that would be interesting and useful to any sort of journalist, blogger, or author who might be using your website to learn more about you. After your home page, this is the spot where you want your website to shine!

What kinds of things belong in your media room? High resolution photos, your bio, your book cover blurbs, reviews, links to any interviews you have done, and the like. Now don’t worry if you don’t really have all of those things collected. You’ve got to start somewhere, so begin with what you do have, and add the other items as the PR campaign for your book grows.

What are the benefits of a media room?

Rather than having to navigate all over your site, all of your media materials are collected into one space, making them easy for a reporter to find, and saving them precious time either looking or calling you.

A media room can also bolster your SEO, giving you a place to constantly update your site with relevant new content.

You can either host and manage this on your own site, or pay a third-party company like PR Newswire to do it for you. While a third-party site might be slightly more professional looking, you’ll have more immediate access and control if you (or your webmaster) do it yourself.

What should go into a good media room?

High Resolution Photos

  • A good head shot, first and foremost.
  • Preferably one of you by yourself (not holding Fido, a fishing reel, or at your laptop, unless your book is about dog training, fishing, or Internet marketing)
  • You want to be smiling (or with a pleasant look).
  • It should be against a neutral background (no nature shots).
  • Make sure your eyes are open – not tiny slits, as so much of your personality shines through your eyes.
  • Even if you HATE all your pictures, you need to get this picture taken, both for the book itself and for your media room. You needn’t hire a professional photographer, just someone who can capture a friendly shot, chest up or head only.
  • Your book cover (front and back)
  • Any other relevant images.
  • Make sure all of these photos are good quality and high resolution (300 dpi) so that they will reproduce well in print.

Your Media Kit

Granted, your media kit will contain a lot of what is included in the media room, but it will be a shorter version that you update less frequently.

Media Releases

Include PDFs of any media releases you (or your PR team) have written about your book, your launch parties and book signings, events you’ve attended, etc.

Videos

Include links to any videos you have created about your book, like your book trailer. Third-party videos, such as interviews, probably go in a different location within the media room.

Articles and Interviews

This is a collection of any third-party coverage you have received, including articles, radio and TV interviews, podcasts, online chats, etc. The easiest thing is to use links to the sites where they are hosted – but make sure to check periodically to be certain the links remain live. There’s nothing worse than having a reporter be interested in learning more, only to find your links don’t work.

Reviews

Much like the articles, this is a collection of reviews you have received – but you want to set them apart specifically as REVIEWs. Whether they were in print publications, online publications, blogs, or other places, include links to each of them, placing the most current at the top of the list.

Awards and Endorsements

This media room is your chance to toot your own horn – LOUDLY! Include all awards, endorsements, and acknowledgements that in any way further your establishment as a credible author. For instance, should you mention your award as Home Room Assistant of the Year at your child’s school? Absolutely – if your book is about parental involvement in their children’s education!

Catalogue Page/Listing

If you have a traditional publisher, chances are good that your book was included in their print or online catalogue. Include a PDF of the printed page that contains info about your book, or a link to the online version.

Bio and Credentials

Include a brief bio of yourself that you would want to see reprinted in an article. It should be short, but thorough enough to give a radio interviewer sufficient information to introduce you properly.

Schedule of Coming Events

If you’ve got readings, book signings, and or workshops booked, include a list of those in your media room.

Personal Contact Info

Make it easy for visitors to get in touch with you! Include your name, e-mail address, social media handles, business mailing address, and business phone number.

For a look at an author with a good start on a media room, please visit AmaraCharles.com.

MARCIE

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Please contact us if you’d like help putting together your media kit, media releases, or book proposal. Free 30-minute consultation when you mention this post ($99 value).

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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PREVIOUS POSTS

Thursday, September 15 – 10 creative alternate uses for media releases

Monday, September 12 – Get your MEDIA RELEASE to the right person in a timely fashion for a better chance of response

Thursday, September 8 A dynamic MEDIA KIT can help you land those coveted interviews

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